I’ve recently read a book about Balthus, a Polish – French artist painting in the late 20th century. He was convinced that the biographical details about a painter were not essential to the study of art. He objected to the wordiness of art books and said that a book about his artwork should be a book of pictures not a book of words about pictures.
When someone asked Balthus for biographical details he replied in a telegram: “No biographical details. Begin: Balthus is a painter of whom nothing is known. Now let us look at the pictures. Regards. B.”
In many ways I share his viewpoint; let the pictures stand alone! Just look! Let each viewer’s own thoughts become the words attached to the art. This is part of why my most recent art book “Dogs by Sue Clancy” is largely wordless. Only 245 words and most of those words are in the very back of the book.
And yet I’m very aware that most people when looking at art also look for something that gives them a clue about what they are looking at – who created this? why? how?
I think some biographical details about the artist can also be helpful clues about the artwork. Art creation is a product of living one’s life and processing it via ones artwork – that includes an artist’s geographical location and era. For example I came to the art genre of “animals/dogs in art” because of living for a time in Oklahoma where many people assume that climate change is a hoax. Many in Oklahoma have an anthropocentric view of the world, meaning that they see human culture is separate from, above and the whole point of the existence of nature. Humans are the most important being, nature is not important, nature is only for human use.
I did not and do not share that view. I see humans and nature as co-relational. Humans, animals and plants need each other. We are bringing forth the world together.
So I began, over 20 years ago now, to create anthropomorphic artworks depicting a merger of animals and human culture. All species and breeds are included. Though I have periods when I focus on one species, like I’m doing now with my dogs, my work generally includes a range of life forms. Even as I’ve worked within the “dogs in art” genre I’ve carefully tried to include a wide diversity of colors and sizes of dogs. Metaphorically I’m illustrating that we are all in this life together.
Now that I live happily in the Pacific Northwest my artwork has taken on a joy that it didn’t have before. I am still doing my anthropomorphic art-style but my colors, shapes, lines, patterns have changed, my compositions have expanded, there’s more variety/diversity, more humor, there are even more dogs in my artwork and more pleasantness. Here in the culture of the Pacific Northwest there is a celebration of and careful care given to the co-existence of humans and nature. I’ve been learning even more about the relationship between humans and the natural world. I think some of my thinking is reflected in my new book. In fact I’m not sure I would have created this book if I still lived in Oklahoma…
But enough with the words! Let us now look at a few of the artworks in “Dogs by Sue Clancy” https://store.bookbaby.com/book/Dogs-By-Sue-Clancy :